OSU asks: Do Americans give a frack about drilling issues?

File photo / San Antonio Business Journal

Researchers at Oregon State University and two other scholarly institutions reported Monday that half of all Americans know little or nothing about hydraulic fracking.

Those who do have an opinion on the technique — which essentially taps natural gas sources within the earth by drilling horizontally through rocks — are split as to whether they support it.

OSU joined surveyors from George Mason University and Yale University in examining awareness about fracking, which also entails injecting water, sand and chemicals into the ground to fracture rock beneath the earth to beckon energy sources.

“When you get into issues of oil and gas exploration, or other contentious areas, the public gets conflicting information from the different sides that have vested interests in the outcomes,” said Hilary Boudet, an OSU public policy expert who served as the study’s lead author. “The fact that half of the people we surveyed know little if anything about fracking suggests that there may be an opportunity to educate the American citizenry in a non-partisan way about this important issue.”

The journal Energy Policy published the study, which was backed by the Surdna Foundation, the 11th Hour Project, the Grantham Foundation and the V.K. Rasmussen Foundation.

Proponents say the technology will spur economic growth while bringing more domestic energy supplies that could ease users’ reliance on other more-carbon generating energy forms. Opponents say the use of chemicals and large amounts of water injected into the subsurface, as well as methane from fracking technology itself, can harm the environment.

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